Sports, Football

Rice’s stoppage time header ensure Arsenal win

Published : 06 Dec 2023 09:23 PM
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Declan Rice’s header deep in stoppage time sealed an enthralling 4-3 victory for Arsenal at lowly Luton Town to send them five points clear at the top of the Premier League on Tuesday.

Arsenal had been knocked out of their stride by an energetic and direct Luton side and it looked as though they were about to extend their winless run at Kenilworth Road to 11 games.

But with six minutes of stoppage time played Rice found space to dispatch a header into the net.

His last-gasp goal sparked unbridled joy for the visitors who have now won four league games in a row, but it was heartache for an intrepid Luton side who had twice come from behind to lead early in the second half.

Arsenal have now taken nine extra points this season courtesy of goals scored in the last five minutes of games. “Luton are a top side and they can't be overlooked in this league for the quality they have," Rice told Amazon Prime.

“To score in the last minute and keep the momentum building it's massive for us. Those are the moments you look back on. What a game. To score the winner is an honour.”

Arsenal have 36 points from 15 games played with Liverpool on 31 and champions Manchester City on 30 before their games at Sheffield United and Aston Villa respectively on Wednesday.

After a weekend of high-scoring encounters the opening 20 minutes on a raw night at Kenilworth Road were uneventful with no hint of the thriller that was to unfold.

But the game exploded into life when some quick thinking from a throw-in ended with Gabriel Martinelli scuffing a shot inside the post from Bukayo Saka's cut back.

Luton responded five minutes later with Gabriel Osho powering a header past David Raya from Alfie Doughty's corner.

Saka and Martinelli were both denied by saves from Thomas Kaminski but Arsenal did go ahead again just before the break with Gabriel Jesus heading in Ben White's dinked cross.

Arsenal had not won at Luton since 1986 and they were rocked on their heels early in the second half as first Elijah Adebayo headed in another Doughty corner in the 49th minute before Andros Townsend played in fellow former England international Ross Barkley eight minutes later to drill a shot through Raya.

Raya should have done better for Luton's second and third goals but his blushes were spared by his team mates.

The old stadium was still reverberating from Barkley's goal when Kai Havertz squared it up on the hour from Jesus's pass.

Arsenal applied intense pressure but Luton appeared to have sealed a memorable point until Martin Odegaard's cross picked out Rice who placed a perfect header past Kaminski.

"Incredible evening. First of all, congratulations to Luton, their players, staff, the atmosphere they created made it a special night to play football and they made it very hard for us," Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.

“They are so good at set pieces and they made us really fight for the game and at the end it was a beautiful win."

Luton remain fourth from bottom with nine points and while the defeat stung, manager Rob Edwards was rightly proud of his players who gave Arsenal a real scare.

“Arsenal wanted a game of order and we made it chaotic at times,” Edwards said. “I don't think that has ever happened to me, conceding that late to lose a game so I'm flat right now.”